Is China Engaging in a “Modern Colonialism” in Africa?


Xi Jinping


3 years ago at the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China’s President for life, Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen an already steady relationship with the African continent. In an encouraging speech to the African Union leadership and Heads of State, Xi promised to deliver a $60 billion package over the next 3 years that will include aid, interest-free loans, and capital. With 53 African countries in attendance, they viewed it as a welcome gift after suffering through the horrendous ebola outbreak they just experienced.

There's been much talk about China's recent endeavors in Africa and whether it is neo-colonialism or globalization. What is the motivation behind China's goodwill to the African continent? Is it outreach with their best interests at heart or is it a Trojan horse of sorts?

Primarily the Chinese government can increase its sphere of influence in today's global race with Africa. As Erick Agbleke says in the International Policy Digest: "It is no secret that foreign aid can be used as a bargaining chip, where it goes a long way in facilitating international relations. For instance, the Marshall Plan of post-World War II was not initiated just out of the good heart of the US government. It was rather erected as a roadblock to the spread of communism in Western Europe. In the same way, China’s willingness to pour money and resources into the continent of Africa is not motivated by some form of sincerity towards the people, but rather to further its own agenda."

Though China loaned a whopping $95.5bn on the continent between 2000 and 2015, researchers at the China Africa Research Initiative found most of this was spent addressing Africa’s infrastructure gap. Some 40% of the Chinese loans paid for power projects and another 30% went to modernizing transport infrastructure. The loans were at comparatively low-interest rates and with long repayment periods.

“The risk for African borrowers relates to the project’s profitability,” says Cari director Deborah Bräutigam. “Will they be able to generate enough economic activity through these projects to repay these loans? Or are the projects seen more as ribbon-cutting opportunities? The Chinese believe that ports and special economic zones are a ‘win-win’ development tool. It’s what they did at home at an earlier stage of their development.”

As the United States and the rest of Western civilization have largely turned a blind eye towards Africa, China sees an opportunity and is stepping in a major way. As they strive to be the biggest supporter and financier on the continent, we should absolutely be concerned; given the fact that China is one of the largest perpetrators of human rights violations, complete disregard for freedom, and governmental intimidation.

The American dream lives on in some of these countries as they viewed the U.S. as the best place to receive an education and opportunity to prosper. We have always been the vanguard for human rights. Will it continue into this new age of Trump's "America First" policies? Time will tell.

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